As it sits right now, the Utah Jazz have the best record in the NBA. At 29-10 they have the most wins in the league, the fewest losses and have the number one seed in the Western Conference with a 2.5 game lead over the Phoenix Suns. Despite currently being the top dog right now, the Jazz really haven’t been playing league-leading basketball the last little while. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games dating back to before the All-Star break. They dropped some pretty winnable games (on paper at least) to the Heat, Pelicans, 76ers, and Warriors. In about a two week span the Jazz lost the same amount of games as they had the entire rest of the season. Watching these losses occur, it’s been a bit of a mix between individual struggles, team fatigue, or just really bad officiating (looking at you 76ers game ref squad). The Jazz rebounded and had a nice win in Boston a few nights ago, with a convincing effort from Rudy Gobert and a clutch shot from Donovan Mitchell. It’s been proven so far this season that when the Jazz are firing on all cylinders, they are a force to be reckoned with. But just like everyone else, sometimes they are not and the losses have happened.
With a 2.5 game lead over the Suns for the 1 seed in the West, the Jazz need to start building that lead as much as they can. Having the number one seed not just in the West, but in the NBA could be a huge factor for the Jazz if they were to make an NBA Finals run. The Jazz just announced another increase of live attending fans in Vivint Arena, and raised the limit to 5,600 per game. By the time the playoffs roll around, there could be some considerable fans attending games in person. Having the top seed and having the NBA Championship run through your city is a huge advantage, especially when other teams in the league might not be allowing any fans to the games.
Looking at the Jazz’s schedule for the next few weeks, there shouldn’t be any reason why they can’t stock pile some wins, and widen that gap between them and the 2 seed. Here’s their next 10 games.
@ Washington 14-25 (Lost 5 in a row)
@ Toronto 17-23 (Lost 6 in a row)
@ Chicago 18-21
Brooklyn (tough game)
@ Memphis 18-19
Orlando 13-26 (Lost 8 in a row)
That’s nine out of the next ten games against a team with a losing record. This stretch of games is a big reason why the Jazz had the easiest second-half schedule in the NBA. After this stretch it toughens up a bit, but still nothing too crazy.
Jazz have #1 Easiest Schedule (remaining games).— Jake Lee (@JakeRexLee) February 24, 2021
Lakers have the #4 Hardest.
Clippers have the #6 Hardest. pic.twitter.com/GpMCYLoyg2
The Jazz have the easiest schedule moving forward in part because (a) they don't have to play themselves and (b) their home-court advantage is enhanced by altitude. But they also have numerous games against some of the weakest teams: 2 vs MIN, 2 vs OKC, 3 vs SAC, 2 vs ORL, etc. pic.twitter.com/8Fowzjizd1— Positive Residual (@presidual) February 24, 2021
If the Jazz are going to keep the 1 seed, they absolutely need to feast during this stretch. They really shouldn’t go anything less than 8-2, maybe 7-3 if they catch some unlucky breaks somewhere. Utah is 15-3 against teams below .500 this season, and have done their fair share of feasting on lesser teams this whole season.
Right now 538 projects the Jazz with a finishing record of 53-19, which would be the best record in the league, the #1 seed in the West, and - **ahem** A 23% CHANCE OF MAKING THE NBA FINALS. They project the Suns finishing with the 2 seed at 48-24, and Clippers, Lakers, Nuggets all 46-26. Obviously these numbers are just projections at this point, and so much can change in the NBA in so little time, we’ve seen it all before.
This will be a good stretch for some guys to get back on track and playing like they were during the crazy win streak. Most importantly, everyone just needs to stay healthy and make sure that come May playoff time, they are ready to play 100%. Make a run at the finals, baby.